On Unqualified by Anna Faris (2017)

Book coverThe 2024 Winter Reading Challenge, like previous ones, has a category for audio books, but this year, it had an additional requirement: it needed to be narrated by the author. Fortunately, I had a copy of this audio book, which was at the top of the box containing audio books and courses that I’d removed from atop the desk hutch because the stacks were blocking the light from the lamps up there. It was fortunate that I picked up this former library copy at the Friends of the Library book sale last spring as I took a quick spin through the audio books section of the library and did not find anything narrated by the author. Well, nothing I would want to listen to anyway.

It took some effort to fit this audio book in, gentle reader. As you might know, my children are older now and don’t require me to drive them to and from school on weekdays, so I lost about an hour each day in audiobook listening time. Coupled with the fact that I currently have no wheels (ask me sometime about how the autumn and winter of 2023/2024 vexed me) and don’t really go anywhere, so I had to make an effort to listen to an audio book at home. I briefly tried to listen while I worked, but I was focused on other things and was not paying attention to the audio book, so I could not do that. I didn’t have any hands-on, not processing words hobbies in the workshop to do while this played. So I spent six evenings, well, six individual hours over six evenings, to listen to this. Instead of reading a book or watching a film. I lit a fire, popped a CD into the DVD player to listen through the den’s audio system, and I just listened to the book. I gave my attention pretty strictly to the book. I couldn’t even putz around on my phone as I don’t have any games or mindless activity apps installed on the phone. Just a browser for reading Web sites. But, gentle reader, I wanted that 2024 Winter Reading Challenge mug. And, most importantly, I wanted to hit all of the categories. So I listened to Anna (ah-na) Faris (one R) read her book.

So: Although I have seen her in Lost in Translation and Keanu (although it must have been a small role, playing herself, perhaps in the Hollywood scene), I remember her mostly from My Super Ex-Girlfriend where she played Hannah, the cute assistant to the Luke Wilson character. Mostly because I just watched the film last year. She has been in a number of other comedies and voice actor in children’s movies and some television appearances. But, as I discovered, she is a comic actress and not a comedienne, which is important because this book is earnest and not humorous.

She also has or had a successful podcast, or maybe successfulish as I don’t know what metrics mark a successful podcast, called Unqualified. On the podcast, Faris gives advice, mostly (I presume based on the contents of the book) on sex and relationships. But she holds that she is really unqualified to give this advice.

So this book is part memoir, with some stories about her growing up and becoming an actor but also about her early relationships, her first marriage, her second marriage to Chris Pratt and the birth of their son, and some behind-the-scenes glimpses of life in Hollywood (she and Pratt divorced after the book came out, and she is on her third marriage now), and a bit about the podcast and its production. Another part of the book is relationship advice based on callers to the podcast, and another bit of it is filler material where she reads comments from the podcast’s Facebook page and whatnot. Unfortunately, it’s not particularly humorous (comic actress, not a comedienne). It might be a better read as some of the material is probably pretty skimmable, whereas listening to it means you have to hear every word at the author’s pace.

I don’t want to poop all over the author’s efforts here; she is very earnest in wanting to help people by giving them advice. But I am really not the target audience for this book, and I’m sure I would not have picked up the book if I saw it in a bookstore. But I saw it through the veil of profligate accumulation on a Audiobooks table for $.50 a month after I’d seen Faris in a film, so I got the book. And, fortunately, it counted for a category in the Winter Reading Challenge. But I can only recommend it if you’re a fan of Anna Faris or advice columns/podcasts. Not if you’re looking for topical humor from a comedian or comedienne.

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